The Detroit Red Wings filled one glaring void in their staff only to be left with another. After naming Dave Lewis as their new head coach, they announced that head trainer John Wharton was leaving the team.
Lewis had served as the Red Wings associate coach for the past fourteen seasons before getting pegged for the head coaching job left vacant by the retirement of Scotty Bowman. Red Wings players applaud his promotion.
“Nine years as assistant under Scotty is like getting a degree from Harvard,” veteran defenseman Chris Chelios said. “You know what, everybody’s got a great rapport with him. I think it would have been tough to bring in somebody from the outside with the group of guys we have, and with Lewie, we won’t have to change the system. He knows what page we’re all on. I think it’s going to work out fine.”
Lewis is a former NHL defenseman who spent time with the New York Islanders, Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils and the Red Wings before retiring in 1987.
“Being a former player is one of his biggest strengths,” Detroit captain Steve Yzerman said. “He knows where guys should be on the ice, and if he sees a player do something, he can break it down instantaneously and explain what happened. He knows everybody’s responsibilities.”
While Lewis was named head coach, trainer John Wharton decided to leave the team to pursue other options. Assistant Piet Van Zant has been promoted to fill Wharton’s position.
“It’s just time,” Wharton said Tuesday. “When I first got into being a trainer, I told myself I would do it for 10 years. They flew by. I stayed another year. We won the Stanley Cup. It would be really easy to be Johnny Wharton, Red Wings trainer, forever, but I just feel like I’m not growing personally or professionally anymore, so it’s time for a change. I might want to write a book. I have a couple of screenplays I’ve thought about. There are a lot of things that are inside me bottled up, and sticking around being a trainer is not going to let them out.”
Wharton doesn’t have any definite plans for his future, but looks forward to having more time to spend with his family.